The Bear in the Desert

A story about diversity, acceptance and living our purpose, for children of all ages.
by Jim Murdoch

Once upon a time there was a little bear who lived in a desert. I know, you would expect a bear to live in the woods on in the mountains. But this little bear lived in the desert, all alone, except, that is, for his little friend, the spider. Now you wouldn’t expect a spider to live in the desert either, would you? And how did these two out of place creatures end up in a desert, you might ask? Well we’ll get to that.
Anyway, here they were, a little bear and a spider, all alone in a desert wondering what to do in this vast expanse of sand.
“I know what we can do?” said the spider. Bear called the spider, Spider, and Spider called the bear, Bear. So we’ll continue to call them Spider and Bear from now on.
“I know what we can do?” said Spider. Yes, I know I said that already, but just in case you forgot I repeated it.
“What,” said a tired little Bear, lying in the sun with his nose in the sand. It tickled his nose and made him sneeze blowing sand all over Spider and the length of web she had just spun out to a nearby twig sticking out of the sand.
“Oh, bother, Bear. My web is sandy now. I’ll have to throw this away and spin another bit.” Spider was quite annoyed because spiders were usually quite careful not to waste any web. They would always eat what they couldn’t use anymore.
“I’m sorry,” said Bear, sitting up and rubbing the sand from his nose. “But this sand gets everywhere. It gets into my ears, into my nose, into my mouth, and even into my,”
“Ahem!” interrupted Spider. She was a lady spider and didn’t care for such vulgar topics.
Bear wondered what was wrong then proceeded to scratch sand out of his fur.
“As I was saying before you ruined my perfectly new strand of web, I know what we can do?”
“You said that already,” said Bear, rubbing the fur on his belly.

Spider opened her mouth to say something rude but changed her mind.Spider
“Well I am going to tell you what we can do,” she said as she cast another sticky strand over to the twig. It wrapped itself around the tiny twig and stuck. Spider pulled until it was tight then cast another strand over to a pebble in the sand. After a few minutes Spider had spun a web and took her place in its centre.
“There,” she said with pride. “Now we can catch a fly and eat it for lunch. Just then a big black and blue fly flew around Bear’s head three times and flew straight into Spider’s web. Spider jumped into action. She raced to the fly, bit it, paralysing it, spun a few strands around its body, tying its wings to its side so it couldn’t fly away, then proceeded to bite off the bits of web holding the fly to the web while at the same time spinning it around while wrapping more and more web around its body.
Bear was fascinated to watch Spider at work.
“Now it’s all ready,” said Spider excitedly. “Want some?” And she started to suck at the dying fly.
“Yuck,” said Bear, holding his paw to his mouth. Bears don’t eat flies,” he said and walked away so as not to see what Spider was doing.
“What do you eat then?” asked Spider.
“Berries, fruit, fish, roots of plants, oh and I love grub.”
“Grub?” squealed Spider. “You mean the larvae of insects?”
“Yep. Those are very juicy and make me feel strong.”
“I don’t know how you could even think of eating such a thing,” said Spider, shivering so that her web shook making her bounce this way and that way.
“I don’t think about eating,” said Bear, wondering why on earth anyone would want to think about eating. “I just eat them.”
“Oh dear, Bear.” Spider was exasperated. “Eating must be contemplated. It needs planning and a lot of preparation. There is a lot of thinking goes into eating. You really should try it. It makes eating much more enjoyable.”
Bear stopped scratching and looked at Spider. “Think about eating?” he thought aloud. “OK, I’ll try.” So Bear closed his eyes and thought about eating. He thought about eating honey, catching and eating fish, eating the nuts which squirrels hid in the ground, plucking berries from bushes and eating them, and his favourite, digging the soil for juicy grubs and eating those.
“Ooh,” said Bear, rubbing his tummy.
“What’s the matter?” asked Spider.
“All this thinking about eating is making me hungry.” Bear’s tummy rumbled like rocks rolling down a gravel slope.
“What’s that noise?” asked Spider looking around for a hill where rocks could roll down.
“That’s my tummy rumbling.”
“Oh. That’s a silly thing for a tummy to do. Why does it do that?”
“Because it wants food.”
“Spiders don’t have rumbling tummies. We just sit and wait for our food to come to us and it always does.”
“I’ve been sitting here for ages and no food has come my way,” complained Bear, rubbing his tummy some more.
“That’s because you don’t have a web,” said Spider eyeing another delicious fly flying nearby.
“Bears can’t make webs.”
“Then how on earth do you catch your food?” Spider laughed. She simply couldn’t imagine catching food any other way. What a strange bear Bear was.
Bear stood on all four paws, thought for about half a second, then said, “I’ll show you.”
He then proceeded to scrape and dig at the sand, sniffing with his nose and digging some more, sniffing a little and digging some more. After what seemed like an eternity for Spider, Bear yelped with excitement as he plunged his paw into the hole in the sand and pulled out two wriggling grubs.
“Ugh,” cringed Spider.
“Oh,” said Spider as she watched Bear lick his paws and swallow the grubs in a gulp.
“Now that was good, but I’m still hungry,” Bear said.
Just then it began to rain sand. Sand poured down from the sky like an avalanche.
“Hey, Bear, watch out for my web. It’s getting all sandy.”
“I’m not doing that,” said Bear trying to shield his eyes from the flying sand.
The downpour of sand stopped. There in front of Bear and Spider stood a little puppy dog, tongue hanging, tail wagging and panting like he had just run a mile in the sand.

“So you spread all that sand over us,” said Spider. Dog, for that’s what Bear and Spider decided to call the puppy dog, yelped, spun around and kicked some sand with his back paw.
“Such a silly dog, Dog,” said Spider, looking at her ruined web. “Why would anyone want toPuppy Dog spray sand in the air? Don’t you know that it will come down again on our heads?”
Dog bounced and wagged his tail, yelped and said, ”Fun!” Then he ran in circles around where Bear stood and Spider sat on her web. “Fun, fun, fun,” said Dog.
Bear thought that was fun and danced around like Dog. But after a few seconds he grew tired and sat down beside Spider.
“Phew,” Bear said. “This fun is much too tiring. It makes me hungrier.”
“All that waste of energy,” said Spider, “When he could be building a web.” Spider was busy tearing down the sandy web and planning the next one.
“Maybe dogs don’t build webs either,” said Bear, laying his chin on his paws.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Spider, sending out the new strands for the best web ever. “Do you suppose Dog digs for his food like a bear. Ha!” Spider laughed at the idea. Having one creature digging for grubs was quite bad enough, two creatures digging for food was preposterous.
“Hey, Dog,” called Bear to the dog. “How do you get your food?” Dog looked at Bear, looked at Spider, yelped and turned and ran away over the hill of sand. Bear wanted to see where Dog was going so he scrambled up the sandy hill with Spider on his back and they watched as Dog ran and ran until he came to a group of strange creatures who walked on their hind legs and had no fur. One of them took something and gave it to Dog. Bear was amazed, these stand up creatures give the dog food. Dog doesn’t even need to dig for it. And he doesn’t even need a web to catch it. Dog ran with something in his mouth back to Bear and Spider and set the odd looking food on the sand.
Bear looked at it and sniffed. “That smells nice. What is it?”
“Biscuit!” yelped Dog.
Spider walked over and tapped it. “Completely inedible,” she said.
Bear was about to grab the biscuit but Dog took it whole in his mouth and munched it till he had eaten all of it.
One of the stand up creatures called out. Dog’s ears perked. “Master,” he said, “give food.” He danced and spun and ran off back to his master.
“Huh,” said Bear. “I wish a master would give me food.” Bear looked around. From the hill he could see lots of stand up creatures, little ones and big ones. And there was water. Lots of water. And on the other side there were trees, lots of trees.
“This desert is not so big,” said Bear.
“Let’s go over to those trees,” said Spider. “I can build a really big web there and catch lots of flies.”
So Bear, carrying Spider on his back, walked away from the tiny desert by the sea back into the woods from where he wandered only a short time ago. He walked with Spider on his back sniffing the air as they went.
“I smell berries,” he said. Then he stopped.
“Why are you stopping?” asked Spider. She had spied a lovely tree with long branches and already was planning how she would build her grandest of all webs on it.
“I am thinking,” said Bear.
“About eating?” asked Spider.
“Yes. Isn’t it funny how all creatures eat different food, and isn’t it peculiar how each creature gets its food different from the others?”
“Yes, I had noticed,” said spider now with a complete plan of her new web in her head. “But I really must get building my web. Can you walk me closer to that big tree, please?”
“OK,” said Bear who was quite tired from all that thinking and the smell of berries was almost overwhelming. “And I need to find those berries, I’m hungry.”

Jane and the Dragon

The story which inspired the novel “Pursuit”.

Have you been battling money issues? Do you consistently meet against a wall when it comes to money? Just when your finances are beginning to look better home comes that unexpected bill or something desperately needs replacing. You never seem to get over that level and tend to be more under it that over it.

This little story may help you see your money related problems in a new light.

Jane was battling the fiery dragon. This fire breathing dragon was blocking her path. Jane wanted so much to get past the dragon. She had the sense that beyond the dragon were the things she desired and needed. In fact there were times when she was really in the thick of battle that she thought she could see gold beyond the dragon. It looked like the dragon was guarding the gold.

dragon_treasureNow Jane learned from this experience that to get to the gold, which she so desperately wanted, she would have to kill the dragon. If only she could reach the gold and take what she needed she could pay off all of her debts and live a life without worry or concern.

With the understanding that the dragon was guarding the gold Jane fought with all her might. She was determined to kill the dragon. Once dead the gold would all be at her disposal.

However, the dragon was not an easy foe. The harder Jane fought the more the dragon danced about and spat out fire. Jane was almost toasted many times. The heat of the flames would singe her skin and hair. The dragon would roar and blast its fiery heat towards her when she drew near. As she swung her sword to strike the dragon dead the dragon easily dodged out of the way, spitting another hot flame in her direction as it did so.

This constant battling drained Jane of all of her energy. She would be forced to withdraw in order to regain her strength. During her rests she would moan over her life of shortage. She would complain that all the gold she needed was guarded by that fiery dragon. She would pray to God and ask him to kill the dragon, to help her get some of the gold. But God seemed not to listen. The dragon remained and never slept so that any attack by Jane was never a surprise for the dragon.

This endless battle went on for many years. Jane’s situation never improved and sometimes even worsened. She struggled to pay her debts and even to provide herself with enough sustenance to live through the day.

One day, many years of battling later, she lay down her sword and fell before the dragon and cried to him to devour her now for her life was of no worth. She wept sorely awaiting the fierce dragon to turn her pathetic existence into ashes. What was the point in living on in this condition. She was poor and helpless. What was the point in battling this fearless foe of a dragon who never tired and never released its gold.

After what seemed a very long time Jane had stopped sobbing and wondered why the dragon was taking its time. It should have devoured her by now. Was it waiting for her to stand up and then take her life? Slowly Jane raised her head and looked towards the dragon and the gold it was guarding. The brightness of the gold blinded her so that she could not see the dragon very clearly. She saw its outline as it slowly stood and walked towards her.

“This is it,” Jane thought aloud so that the dragon could hear her. “This is the end. Go on spit out your fire and burn my poor being to smoke and ashes. My life isn’t worth living anymore. And without your gold I have no more hope.”

She watched through the glare of the gold as the dragon approached and stood just an arm’s reach from where she lay. It didn’t look as big now as she had thought. Many a times as she battled the dragon it looked as if it towered over her with great height and size. But now it looked no bigger than a man.

Puzzled, and because it was not moving, she raised herself a little more to get a better look. She was curious that the dragon had stopped and was not blowing fire  and also that it looked now not much larger than her.

“You have never asked me for anything,” said the dragon.

Jane was shocked to hear the dragon speak. “What can I ask of a dragon?” she replied.

“What is it you desire?”

“Your gold! I desire your gold, for then I can pay off my debtors and live a comfortable life. But I have fought you these many years and you have not once stepped aside allowing me to take even one piece of your treasure. Therefore I am weary and poor and have come for you to take my life with your fire, for I wish to live no more.” Jane sank her head into her hands as she knelt before the dragon. Yet she puzzled at its form. For through the glare of the gold it no longer looked like the fierce dragon from before.

“Then ask! For whatever is mine is yours, my child,” said the dragon.

Jane thought now she was dreaming. Did the dragon just call her its child? She looked up shielding hers eyes from the glare trying to look at the dragon. “What did you say?”

“Ask for whatever you desire, for whatever is mine is yours.”

“Why did you call me your child?” asked Jane, now growing accustomed to the glare. She thought she could make out the outline of the dragon, but it was the outline of a man, not a dragon. “Who are you? What are you?” Jane asked, now seeing that indeed this was a man who stood before her and not a dragon. “Where is the dragon? Did you kill it?”

“There is no dragon, child. There never was a dragon,” answered the man.

“But I have fought a dragon all these years to get to that gold beyond you and it fought me back not letting me retrieve even piece of gold. How can you say there has never been a dragon?”

The man, dressed in white, stooped to take Jane’s hands and helped her to her feet. Looking into her eyes with such compassion as Jane had never seen before he spoke with a gentleness which seemed to connect with her soul. “I AM that which you deem me to be. I AM the dragon keeping you away from your desires and dreams. I AM the illness and weakness which strikes your body often. I AM the sadness which fills your heart in times of need. Yet again I AM the joy you feel when holding a child or pondering a flower. I AM the strength you feel in your bones as you run in the valley or swing your sword. I AM the substance of all that you desire and require. I AM that which you deem me to be.” The man smiled a smile which made his words enter her soul.

Jane pondered what the man had said. She looked over at the gold. She looked at the man. And she answered him with these words. “You are the substance of all my desires. You are the joy and sadness of my heart. You are unto me all things which my heart seems fit to make you to be. You are the dragon I have fought these many years. And the gold? The gold was within my reach all this time. Please forgive me. I have made you to be the dragon which you are not and blamed you for the gold which was out of my reach but was not.” She tried to kneel in humble repentance but he held her firm.

Embracing her with his arms he drew her close to his body. “I AM that I AM. I AM you,” he said with a final embrace.

Jane returned the embrace, crying tears now of joy and gratitude. She was thankful to learn that now the dragon will never appear if she never thinks of it. She was grateful to know that the gold was never guarded and the abundance before her was hers if she so wishes. She repeated her gratefulness over and over and held the man close to her.

She opened her eyes, for they had been shut with weeping, and realized that there was no man. She embraced herself. And with that came the realization that all things were hers. Abundance was hers. All the gold of earth was hers. Whatever she desired was hers. Jane would never suffer lack again, for now she knew that the Source of all things was One with her.

As she gathered a handful of the gold before her feet, she smiled to the heavens, her heart filled with gratitude and joy, and said, “I AM.”

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